Round 17 of the GUINNESS PRO14 arrives after a weekend which saw the race for play-off spots get even tighter. Last weekend’s results meant that defending champions Leinster became the first team to secure their place (with a home semi-final on offer next), while Munster and Glasgow Warriors won to keep setting the pace in Conference A.
However behind them, the chase is as close as ever for the remaining places. This weekend’s schedule include some huge games, in particular with Benetton hosting Edinburgh and Connacht taking on the Ospreys. The focus is narrowing on the GUINNESS PRO14 final on Saturday, May 25, which will take place at Celtic Park – fans can book their places now by clicking here to get their hands on the best seats.
The weekend kicks off on Friday night with just the one game, as Leinster play host to the Toyota Cheetahs at the RDS. The province’s bonus point win over the Isuzu Southern Kings last week, combined with other results, meant that they are now mathematically assured of a place in the final series, and another win would seal top spot in Conference B.
The Cheetahs, by contrast, really need a win to stay in touch in the race for a top three spot in Conference A. However, they are still searching for a first win in Ireland, and face a Leinster team who have not lost at home since April 2018.
Saturday’s action begins at the Sportsground as Connacht host the Ospreys. With just three points separating Cardiff Blues, Connacht and the Ospreys in the race for a final series spot, this could have huge implications for the end of season. The Ospreys were narrowly beaten by Munster last week and have now lost five in a row in all competitions to slip to fifth in Conference A. Connacht, meanwhile, have had some struggles of their own with just one win in their last four in the Championship but have not lost at home to a Welsh side since 2017.
Later on Saturday the Scarlets entertain Munster in a repeat of the 2017 final, this time at Parc y Scarlets. Last year’s runners-up find themselves in a perilous position in the race for a final series sport, sitting fifth in Conference B. They are, however, only five points off Benetton in second, so that could all change in a single weekend.
The Scarlets boast a fine home record, with just one defeat at Parc y Scarlets since 2016 in the Championship, and they got back to winning ways against the touring Cheetahs last time out. Munster, however, were victorious on their last trip to the Scarlets, winning in September 2016.
Glasgow Warriors will look to keep the pressure on Munster as they travel to Parma to take on Zebre. Glasgow sit just a point behind following last week’s bonus point success against Connacht, and now face a Zebre side who they have beaten in all 13 meetings between the clubs. The Scots were beaten on their last trip to Italy, away to Benetton, while Zebre beat the last Scottish opposition to come to Parma, Edinburgh.
The final game of Saturday is Cardiff Blues at home to the Isuzu Southern Kings. The Blues came from behind to record a vital win away at Edinburgh last week, and moved into the top three in Conference A. They will be keen to consolidate that position against a Kings side whose only wins this season have come against Scottish opposition.
The Blues have only been beaten once in their last four games, that thriller against Glasgow Warriors, and with their two play-off rivals facing each other earlier in the day, a victory could open up some breathing room ahead of the losing team in Galway.
Finally, on Sunday, Ulster travel to the Dragons in need of a win at Rodney Parade. A big triumph over Zebre got Ulster back into the top three in Conference B, and they have the chance to cement that place in Wales. The Dragons have not beaten Irish opposition since 2017, although the last time the teams met in Newport, they played out a thrilling 32-all draw. Ulster are on a good run having now won two in a row on the road, and will look to make it three straight away wins for the first time since 2016.
The pick of the round 17 fixtures is in Treviso on Saturday afternoon as Benetton host Edinburgh. A record win last time out against the Dragons consolidated Benetton’s position in the top three, and they can give their chances of making a first final series spot a real boost this weekend.
They host an Edinburgh team who are still right in the thick of things but will have to get the better of Benetton who have not lost in seven in the Championship. Edinburgh’s record at Stadio di Monigo is played eight, won four and lost four. Their play-off hopes may end up being dependent on whether they can come away from this Italian trip with a winning record.
GUINNESS PRO14 – ROUND 17 FIXTURES:
Friday, March 1 –
LEINSTER (1st, Con B) v Toyota Cheetahs (6th, Con A), the RDS, 7.35pm (live eir Sport 1&2/Premier Sports 1/SuperSport 1/highlights TG4)
Saturday, March 2 –
CONNACHT (4th, Con A) v Ospreys (5th, Con A), the Sportsground, 2.45pm (live TG4/Premier Sports 1)
Benetton Rugby (2nd, Con B) v Edinburgh (4th, Con B), Stadio di Monigo, 4pm local time (live DAZN/Premier Sports 2/Free Sports)
Scarlets (5th, Con B) v MUNSTER (1st, Con A), Parc y Scarlets, 5pm (live S4C/eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 2/TG4)
Zebre (7th, Con A) v Glasgow Warriors (2nd, Con A), Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 6.15pm local time (live DAZN/Free Sports)
Cardiff Blues (3rd, Con A) v Isuzu Southern Kings (7th, Con B), Cardiff Arms Park, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 2/DAZN/SuperSport 1)
Sunday, March 3 –
Dragons (6th, Con B) v ULSTER (3rd, Con B), Rodney Parade, 3pm (live Premier Sports 2/DAZN/SuperSport 1)
TOP PERFORMERS IN GUINNESS PRO14 AFTER ROUND 16 (Powered by Opta Statistics):
TOP POINTS SCORERS –
Sam Davies (Ospreys) 124
Jack Carty (Connacht) 119
Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) 96
Masixole Banda (Isuzu Southern Kings) 96
Tian Schoeman (Toyota Cheetahs) 92
TOP TRY SCORERS –
Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 12
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 8
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 8
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 7
Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) 7
Luke Morgan (Ospreys) 7
Yaw Penxe (Isuzu Southern Kings) 7
Shaun Venter (Toyota Cheetahs) 7
METRES GAINED –
Malcolm Jaer (Toyota Cheetahs) 996
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 946
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 925
Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 871
Dan Evans (Ospreys) 798
MOST CARRIES –
Bill Mata (Edinburgh) 221
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 150
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster) 150
Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors) 147
Marcell Coetzee (Ulster) 143
CLEAN BREAKS –
Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 27
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 23
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 22
Malcolm Jaer (Toyota Cheetahs) 20
Paul Asquith (Scarlets) 20
DEFENDERS BEATEN –
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 61
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 54
Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) 43
Tom Farrell (Connacht) 39
Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby) 39
MOST OFFLOADS –
Tom Farrell (Connacht) 24
Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby) 23
Iliesa Ratuva (Benetton Rugby) 22
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster) 19
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 18
MOST TACKLES –
Olly Cracknell (Ospreys) 210
John-Charles Astle (Isuzu Southern Kings) 201
Tienie Burger (Isuzu Southern Kings) 201
Olly Robinson (Cardiff Blues) 200
Jarrad Butler (Connacht) 181
TURNOVERS WON –
Olly Robinson (Cardiff Blues) 23
Marcell Coetzee (Ulster) 17
Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues) 17
Owen Watkin (Ospreys) 16
Tadhg Beirne (Munster) 15
LINEOUT STEALS –
Tadhg Beirne (Munster) 7
Junior Sipato Pokomela (Toyota Cheetahs) 7
James King (Ospreys) 7
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) 6
Braam Steyn (Benetton Rugby) 6
George Biagi (Zebre) 5
Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) 5
Cory Hill (Dragons) 5
Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby) 5
Scott Fardy (Leinster) 5
JP du Preez (Toyota Cheetahs) 5
For more statistics, please visit www.pro14rugby.org/statistics/powered-by-opta/